Optimism of 2008 replaced with dishing out 'revenge'

If Romney didn't know what he was, President Obama knew where he was going: at the Republican jugular.

His surrogates accused Romney of all but infecting that steelworker's wife with cancer, and things got even more negative after that. So how much cynicism will it take to forget the president's campaign?

"It's going to take a lot of cynicism," Schoen said. "If you look at how the politicians are reacting to the polarization and division, it's not good and I don't see any indications or plans suggesting we're going to be able to put this election behind us anytime soon."

Obama will have to walk across his own political scorched earth on the way to governing in a second term.

He might consider wearing a brown robe, a rope belt and sandals, and try again to invoke that gentle, messianic persona of 2008, the political St. Francis from Chicago, while he wanders the ravaged landscape in search of friends across the aisle.

His first election was an elegant appeal for unity to a war-weary nation. Obama belittled negative campaigning as the refuge of the small-minded. This time around, he wanted what they all want: a second term.

So it was revenge politics. Class war. Race politics, by proxy. A ginned-up "war against women," all of it so that he could rip the American quilt he sewed in 2008 into pieces, and stitch it back together to win on Tuesday.

Savaging the other guy early — as Obama did to Romney in Ohio and other battleground states — was remarkably effective. He spent his money wisely.

He'll trumpet Obamacare as his legacy, yes, but politically, it's this:

The politics of revenge are best served cold.

jskass@tribune.com

Twitter @John_Kass

CHICAGO

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